United Kingdom Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has urged his home country to scrap plans to make certain overseas visitors to Britain pay a £3,000 bond to obtain tourist visas because it sends out the “wrong message” about the country. In his second attack on the policy within 48 hours, Cable told the Financial Times that Number 10’s (Prime Minister’s residence) determination to press on with the visitor bond pilot in November was “disappointing.”
He said, “It is very disappointing and it has not been agreed across the coalition and it seems to send the wrong message that Britain is closed for business.”
There was an international outcry in June when it emerged that the government was planning to ask some visitors from India, Nigeria, Pakistan Kenya, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to pay a £3,000 cash bond in return for a visitor visa to allow them to stay in the UK for up to six months.
The Home Office said the scheme would deter people from overstaying, but governments in Delhi and Abuja expressed “strong displeasure” about the plans.
Cable added, “The operation for the visa scheme, together with the bonds on these Commonwealth countries is simply having the effect of driving bonafide visitors who want to spend and to do business in the UK to France and Germany.”
Cable had on Sunday also warned that George’s Osborne’s mortgage guarantee scheme could stoke a housing bubble while dubbing a mobile billboard campaign telling illegal immigrants to “go home or face arrest” as “stupid and offensive”.
Cable’s reaction is sparking some concerns in senior Liberal Democrat circles, with one senior aide on Monday complaining that the business secretary seemed to be struggling to find any coalition policy he could defend.
Cable’s remarks are particularly embarrassing for Nick Clegg, the party leader, who originally proposed a visitor bond as a way of making his party appear tough on immigration.
However, the policy has proved deeply unpopular with many others in the parliamentary party.
Cable added, “The Liberal Democrats agreed for a bond scheme as an additional route for people who have been turned down, it was never meant to apply to everyone.”